On the Military Revolving Door

Recently I mentioned the excellent Bryan Bender takeout in the Boston Globe about the stampede of retired admirals and generals into jobs with defense contractors.  An employee of a Naval research lab writes:

>>The retired generals and admirals graph may also indicate the present value of the higher officer corps in the market. Decades ago captured utilities (Southern Company, Entergy) or oil firms (Mobil, Exxon) or construction firms would hire them. However in the ensuing time their 19th century management skills have become unusable outside the military industrial complex.  I have a feeling that the percentage of lower level officers working in defense consulting would also track these numbers.<<

 Another reader asks:

>I think a more important question should be, "Why did we have 39 Generals or Admirals of 3+ stars retired in 2007 and that wasn't front-page news?"  After all, while I'm not old enough to remember it, I do know that giving Eisenhower and Bradley and other leaders of WW2 combat commands got 4th stars after, say, beating the Nazis on their home turf.  Why do we have so many former high-ranking officers now that 39 can retire in one year without creating a massive stir?<<

And, from another Federal employee:

>>The revolving door that exists between the military and defense contractors has resulted in the Pentagon more interested in how to defeat the Covenant or the Locust than how to win the wars we are actually fighting. And I don't mean that they spend all day playing Xbox.

Nor is this revolving door limited strictly to the military, but I'm sure you already know that. One of the things I never understood about December is when I walk around my building (a federal building with over 4000 people in it on an average day) there are tons of flyers for the various GS-14s, 15s, and executives that are "retiring". I don't really considering it retiring when you leave on a Friday and are sitting at the same desk on Monday with a slightly different colored badge, and I refuse to pretend that this is anything but a farce. If anything, you can tell who the real slugs are because they are the ones that don't come back as contractors.<<

Let's see if any politicians dare take this on.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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